Right now, Finn LOVES doing “science experiments.” We received a super cool science kit from my mom (the chemist) for Christmas, and it has been the gift that keeps on giving. (And also the gift that keeps facilitating messes…)
Lately, it’s felt like our afternoons stretch on forever before it’s time to prep for dinner, so we’ve been doing science experiments to pass the time. I prep the activities at the end of nap time and then he has something to look forward to once he wakes up!
I’ve searched Pinterest for all sorts of science experiments, but it seems like I never have quite the right supplies or ingredients. These are the ones we’ve done that you should be able to do with supplies you have at home right now!
1. Color mixing
This is an old favorite of ours. (Check out this throwback of us doing color mixing when Finn was 18 months. It’s one of my all-time favorite videos of him – back when every color was “Geen!”)
This is a super simple one: all you need is food coloring, water, and at least 6 different small containers/cups/clear bowls. You’ll create three containers of water with red, yellow and blue food coloring in each. Then, let your child mix the colors together to see what happens! It’s fun sensory play and also teaches them about how primary colors mix together to create secondary colors. You can also get creative with how you let them mix the colors together. I’ve let Finn scoop the water into the containers and we’ve used funnels and tubes. You could use a baster to suck up the water and mix the colors together that way – there’s lots of options for working on those fine motor skills as well.
Supplies needed: red, blue, and yellow food coloring; water; at least 6 containers/cups; spoon or stirrer for mixing
– Fill three large cups with water. Add 5 drops of food coloring to each cup. (So you should have one cup of blue water, one cup of yellow water, and one cup of red water.) Stir the food coloring until completely mixed together.
– This is the fun part! Allow your child to mix together two colors at a time. You can ask them what they think will happen in advance (this is their hypothesis!) and then make observations. You can keep exploring with them: what happens if we mix ALL the colors together? What about if we add only a little of one color and a lot of another color? What if we add more clear water to one color, etc.?
– For reference: blue + yellow = green. Yellow + red = orange. Red + blue = purple.
2. Sink or float
This is another favorite that we’ve come back to time and again. Finn fell in love with this “game” through Blippi. This one is incredibly simple as well – all you need is a large container of water (could even use the kitchen sink!) and a random assortment of household objects that can get wet. Try to choose things with different materials (metal, plastic, cloth, etc.)
Supplies: large container, water, household objects that can get wet (example: loose change, a feather, bath toys, silverware, snack food, leaves, sticks)
– Fill your container with water and collect your objects.
– Before you drop each item into the water, start with a hypothesis: Do you think this item will sink or float? Then, drop the item into the water and see what happens!
– Discuss: why did this item sink or float? Does it have to do with the shape, the material, the size, the weight or something else?
– Density might be a hard subject for a preschooler to understand, but I like this video about this experiment with a discussion on density. At this stage with Finn, we’ve mostly just discussed the heaviness of an object compared to the water.
3. Moldy food
**This takes several days**
This is about mold and how moisture can affect the growth of mold. This one is from Jessica Showalter at @thebookwormexplorers. I saw her do this experiment with her daughter and thought Finn would love it too. You can follow her on Facebook or Instagram where she documents her journey with her kiddos. She’s all about “using books & nature to inspire children’s creativity, promote literacy and get your family outside exploring our wonderful world together!” Thanks, Jessica, for this real neat and simple experiment!
Supplies: slices of bread; sandwich bags; water; water dropper/syringe; permanent marker
– Define/describe mold: a type of fungus made up of tiny cells called spores. Mold spores are so small, we can’t see them with our eyes but once they land on a food substance, they eat that food and grow. This link is helpful if you want a more in-depth description.
– Place slices of bread out on the counter. One slice will be dry – you can place this one in a sandwich bag and label it as “dry” (this is your “control” slice). Fill dropper/syringe with water. Let your child drop two drops of water on one slice of bread. Place it in a sandwich bag and mark as “two drops.” For the next slice, use four drops and the final slice use six drops of water. Place in their baggies and label them.
– Discuss and make a hypothesis: how long will it take for the mold to grow so we can see it? Which slice of bread will the mold grow on the fastest?
– Then wait and watch! If you have a magnifying glass it might be fun to let your child look with that every day.
– Additional: You could take additional bags of dry slices and place one baggie in a windowsill with sunlight and one baggie in a dark part of the pantry to see how that speeds up/slows down the mold-growing process.
– Another variation: use an ice cube tray and place a different food in each cube and cover with clear plastic wrap. Place it out and observe how long it takes each type of food to get moldy.
– Make sure you dispose of the bread without opening the bags after about 10 days (or however long you’re comfortable with having moldy bread around – HA!).
4. Bubbling volcano
We’ve done this a few times in different ways and Finn has enjoyed it in a very cautious way – haha! He likes to watch from a distance with his safety goggles on. It’s very adorable.
Supplies: vinegar; baking soda; measuring cup; tall cup; tray/sheet pan
– Place cup onto the tray. Pour 1/4 cup baking soda into the cup.
– Slowly add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the cup and watch the “volcano” erupt! You can keep adding vinegar to watch the baking soda bubble out of the cup.
– This is an example of what happens when an acid (the vinegar) and a base (the baking soda) meet. Their meeting creates a chemical reaction which results in carbon dioxide gas! Super fun.
– Optional: you can add play dough to the outside of the cup to create something that looks more like a volcano. But you will be sacrificing the play dough – you’ll throw it out when you’re done with the experiment.
– We would watch videos on YouTube of actual volcanoes and discuss lava, a hot topic in our house.
5. Will it dissolve?
Supplies: several clear cups; water; several different items to add to water such as salt, oil, sprinkles, nuts, oats, cinnamon or other spices, etc; mixing spoons
– Fill several cups with water and choose your items that you want to mix into the water.
– Before adding a substance to the water, form a hypothesis with your child: will this dissolve in the water?
– Add the substance to the water and mix together.
– Then observe: what do you see? Did the substance break apart or stick together? Did it maintain its shape or did it become “one” with the water? What color is the water now?
– Additional: you could try using hot water with the same items and see if they act the same way as they did with cold water.
– Definition of dissolve (for the purpose of this experiment): to break apart and/or join together with a liquid
6. Disappearing egg shell
**This take several days but is pretty cool! May want to do this with two or three eggs in case the membrane breaks before you can look at the shell-less egg.**
Supplies: uncooked egg; clear container with a lid; vinegar
The egg we used was brown and I think this worked well for the experiment because you could see the brown color shedding into the vinegar.
– Have your child feel the egg and make some observations: what color is the egg? What does the shell feel like (hard or soft, thick or thin, etc)?
– Explain that an acid (vinegar) will dissolve/break down a base (the eggshell) and create carbon dioxide
– Fill the container about 3/4 full with vinegar and then carefully place the egg inside. Watch as bubbles form around the egg. This is carbon dioxide – a chemical reaction when the vinegar (an acid) meets the eggshell (a base)! Make sure there’s room at the top of the container (for the carbon dioxide – it could literally make your container overflow because of the added gas!)
– Loosely cover the container and put the egg in the refrigerator for two days. We checked on our egg after 24 hours and could see some of the brown pieces floating at the top of the vinegar and the egg was noticeably lighter.
– After two days, you can scoop the egg out of the container (carefully!) and you’ll have an egg without a shell. It will be very easy to break, but allow your child to gently touch/squeeze the egg and feel how soft it is. Discuss what they observe: how does the egg feel/look like? Bring out an uncooked egg to compare it to – what does that egg look like compared to the “naked” one?
7. Rainbow Ice Melting
Supplies: coarse salt; food coloring; tray/sheet pan; several cups/containers to mix ice/food coloring/salt; measuring and mixing spoons
– Combine a tablespoon of salt and 3 drops of food coloring and mix together. You can create as many colors as you like, we did three different colors of salt.
– Cover your tray/sheet pan with ice.
– One color at a time, pour salt onto the ice. You can let your child be creative with this, it’s part of the fun: they could make a rainbow with the colors or mix them together. All that matters is that the ice gets salt on it!
– Observe: what does the ice look like? What does the salt do to the ice? Compare an ice cube without salt on it to a cube with salt on it. How are they different?
– The ice should have little craters on it where the salt has eroded the ice.
Hope you enjoy these! Comment below and let me know which one(s) you did. Feel free to take pics and take me on Instagram @themommyofmayhem too!